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Niger in the bible

Niger, the country of Africa, may or may not have come up in your readings of the Bible, but it is mentioned no less than four times as a person who was skinned alive and whose skin was used to make an ‘edifice.’ Not a lot is known about Niger, despite the fact that he was undoubtedly an extremely important Biblical character. One blogger by the name of Erin Vogt did a bit of research into Niger’s story which led her to uncover some disturbing developments. Niger (in language, El-Nigir) is a country in the western part of Africa in the southern Sudan and northern Nigeria. It is bordered to the north by the Desert, to the east by the Nile, Egypt and Libya, it has Chad to its far South and Cameroon to its West.

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Niger in the bible

Many people have heard the word Niger before, but have you ever thought where it comes from? Some think it may derive from niger meaning black while others think it may derive from one of the most powerful rivers in Africa. It’s true that Niger is derived from the Latin word niger meaning black, but the etymology for Niger is more complex than this.

The word Niger comes from the Latin word nigrum, which means black. In the Bible, Niger is one of Job’s three friends who come to him when he is in despair. He is also mentioned in Acts 13:1-3, where the apostle Paul is preaching in Pisidian Antioch.

According to Josephus, Niger was a Roman senator who lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius. His name was changed to Lucius Junius Silanus Torquatus Niger by Emperor Caligula as a joke because he had a dark complexion.

The Bible is a religious text that was written between the 4th and 1st centuries BCE. It’s one of the most influential works of literature ever created and has been translated into over 2,000 languages.

In the Bible, Niger is mentioned twice: once in the book of Romans and once in the book of Acts. In Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapter 11), he describes himself as “a slave to Christ.” He also says that he was born in Tarsus, Cilicia (modern-day Turkey), which means that he would have spoken Greek or Aramaic as his first language.

In Acts (chapter 13), Paul visits Antioch where he preaches about Jesus’ death and resurrection. He makes many converts there—including Niger—and baptizes them into Christianity with water from an outdoor pool called “Sychar.” After this event, Paul journeys southward toward Jerusalem where he gets into trouble with Jewish authorities who arrest him for blasphemy because they consider him an apostate from Judaism (which he had been raised in).

Boyd’s Bible Dictionary:

(black). Surname of Simeon (Acts 13:1).

Concise Bible Dictionary:

Designation of Simeon, one of the teachers and prophets at Antioch (Acts 13:1). Niger is the Latin for “black,” and Simeon may have been so named because of his dark complexion; but this is not a necessary conclusion.

Strong’s Dictionary of Greek Words:

Number:3526 (find all occurrences in KJV Bible)Greek:ΝίγερTransliteration:NigerPhonic:neeg’-erMeaning:of Latin origin; black; Niger, a ChristianKJV Usage:Niger

Jackson’s Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names:

black (probably Latin)

Potts’ Bible Proper Names:

Black; dark; purple:―distinctive name given to Simeon, Acts 13:1. {Niger}

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

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Niger » The surname of simeon
Simeon » Niger

Niger » The surname of simeon
Acts 13:1Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Simeon » Niger
Acts 13:1Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:1-3, NKJV)

While we’ve announced our Black History of the Bible celebration here at The Essential Church in order to do our Educate the Hate Month justice, every celebration must begin somewhere. Today, it begins with the study of one individual in Scripture who was considered to be a prophet and/or teacher: a man named Simeon of Niger. All Scripture says about the man, in addition to being a prophet and teacher, is that he was “Simeon who was called Niger” (Acts 13:1).

The word “Niger” here, the Greek niger, refers to the man Simeon as black. The Greek word Niger is from where the name Nigeria comes. We know that Nigeria consists of dark-skinned persons, as Nigeria is African in descent. Thus, Simeon was called “Niger” which means that he was called that because he was Black or African in descent. No one would accept being called “Black” unless he or she was an African or dark-skinned. We know that Niger was a common Roman name, so it wasn’t Jewish and was strongly Gentile.

Acts 13:1 also tells us that Simeon “ministered to the Lord and fasted,” and “laid hands on” Barnabas and Saul (this is the Saul who became “Paul” after his conversion) when the Holy Spirit told them to set the two aside for missionary work.

Simeon is listed in the lineup of prophets and teachers alongside of another Black man, “Lucius of Cyrene”, so we can assume that he was a man of some spiritual giftedness. God gifted him greatly, and he ministered in the church at Antioch. We often read of so many Jewish persons in Scripture that we just assume every person in Scripture is Jewish, but no Jewish person would’ve wanted to be called Niger.  The label means “black” in both Hebrew and Greek, so it’s likely that Simeon was a black prophet and teacher in the early church and that he was ministering and communing with Jews — a sign that the early church was biracial.

We’re thankful to God that Simeon called Niger is in the Bible, and it reminds us that Jesus came for all people, including Africans, African-Americans, Black Americans, Nigerians, Ethiopians, Jews, Europeans, Asians, and the entire world.

The next time someone says that Christianity is “a white man’s religion” and that the gospel isn’t for blacks, you can always point them to Simeon called Niger in Acts 13:1. Remember, one must #Educate the Hate in order to see it disappear.

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“NIGER” in the KJV Bible

Acts 13 vs 1:

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.